Combative Anatomy: How to fight a dog

Before I get into this I want to preface by saying I HAVE AND LOVE DOGS.

I am not anti dog, nor am I advocating abusing or beating them.

One of the realities of life however is that there are occasions when dogs attack humans. This video has been making the rounds on Facebook and twitter recently.

I know several people who have been attacked by dogs, I’ve been attacked by dogs

Unfortunately there are a lot of people who buy dogs for the express purpose of making them aggressive (this is especially the case in larger cities), and who then ignore the dogs, do not properly restrain them, or simply let them go when they cannot afford to feed them. The sad fact is that dog fighting is still widely prevalent in many parts of our country, and in some areas increasing in popularity (California’s San Joaquin Valley is one of the latter).

Most of the people who will read this will be of the “I’ll just shoot the dog until it’s dead” mentality. I recommend this fully, however there are times that it is either not possible (you are surprised, are a police officer in London, etc.), or it is simply not prudent (there are people around who may be hit by gunfire, whatever). It is important to remember that if the dog manages to bite you and you are able to shoot it, try not to shoot it in the head (a vet needs an intact cranium to test for rabies, and anti rabies shots suck).


In this post I am going to discuss violent and graphic methods of delivering massive trauma to canines. It was very difficult for me to write this post, because I love dogs. If you are squeamish, you may not want to read any further. I wrote this post because dog attacks do happen, and I couldn’t find any other good information on how to defend yourself against them.

There are three scenarios that I’m going to examine in this post; fighting a dog with a stick or other impact weapon, fighting a dog with a knife or edged weapon, and fighting a dog with your bare hands. I choose these three scenarios because I think these are most likely to be how people will be fighting dogs, and because I have had to fight dogs using all three methods (I’m not sure why but there have been five separate times when I have had occasion to fight a dog). I think for most people this is a scary thought, partly because we’ve all seen what an aggressive dog can do, and partly because most people don’t really know anything about the nuts and bolts of how to go about fighting a dog. You can’t just throw punches at it and win. You’ve got to understand how to disable your opponent. When faced with an aggressive dog attack you only have two options; immobilize or incapacitate the dog.

Basic dog anatomy 101

First lets take a look at the skeletal structure of your average dog, and how we can relate that to humans:

Figure 1 (Click to enlarge)

Figure 2 (Click to enlarge)

Canine Skeleton

Figure 3 (Click to enlarge)

You’ll notice that dogs are structurally… kinda similar to people. Understanding the similarities and differences can help you to develop a strategy that will help you handle an attacking dog.

Fighting a dog with a stick or impact weapon

Your basic tactics when fighting humans with a stick or impact weapon are to break bones, or cause pain. Dogs have a much higher pain threshold than your average human, so you will probably not be able to end a dog attack through use of pain. Again; immobilize or incapacitate are our only options.

There are basically two ways you can fight a dog with an impact weapon: you can attempt to keep them at distance with strikes from the impact weapon, or you can try to get them to focus on the impact weapon and use hand to hand tactics to inflict damage to the animal. If you’re using a shorter stick for example, you may want to try to get the dog occupied with trying to bite it so that you can avoid being bitten yourself while maneuvering into position to apply a choke hold.

Obviously you want something long and heavy if you have your choice of impact weapons, but the fight will be what it is, not what you want it to be. You have two primary targets on a dog with an impact weapon: the head and the legs.

Head strikes will likely be more to divert the dog from biting you, or to maneuver the dog into a position where you can better strike at it’s legs. Striking the dog in the muzzle or nose will be extremely painful for the dog and may result in the dog moving back and away from the strike, leaving the foreleg exposed for a powerful strike.

Your primary target should be the two slender bones of the front legs, between the shoulders and feet, marked as point 7 and 9 in Figure 3 above. These are high value targets as they are relatively thin and if broken will completely immobilize the dog (they will still be able to bite, so be wary). Most often, the dog will be coming at you head on, making strikes to the rear legs a very risky proposition, as it will expose you to bites from the dog. Do not over extend yourself to land a strike on a rear leg. Rear legs are low value targets because you must strike them in very specific ways to break them or dislocate the joints, and the leg bones are much thicker than the fore legs.

If your impact weapon has great heft (like a hammer, a large rock, or a baseball bat), you may want to try for a decisive head strike. Be wary of over extending yourself with a committed strike though, as dogs are generally very nimble and a missed strike at the cranium could easily lead to a counter attack from the dog that leaves you bleeding or knocks you to the ground.

Strikes to the ribs or spine may be effective, but will have to be extremely powerful to cause enough injury to immobilize or incapacitate the dog.

Fighting a dog with a knife or edged weapon

Humans have an instinctive and primal fear of knives when used as weapons. Dogs do not. You are not going to frighten a dog by pulling a knife on it. If you are facing an aggressive dog and have only a knife to defend yourself, you have only one objective: incapacitate the dog as quickly as possible through destroying the dog’s ability to move, breathe, or through massive blood loss.

Figure 4 shows a cut away of a dog, giving us several targets for attack with a knife.

Figure 4 (Click to enlarge)

Figure 5

Something to keep in mind is that dog’s muscles are extremely dense. Some of the target areas discussed here will require quite a bit of force to reach effectively, and the dog is not going to sit still while you saw at it.

When defending against the dog with a knife, it is highly likely that you will be bitten. It is imperative that you not allow the dog to bite the hand or arm that you are holding the knife in. If the dog gets its teeth in that arm it is very likely that you are going to lose the knife.

Point A in Figure 4 is a target area under the jaw, and between the bones of the mandible. This is a target of opportunity. If you can thrust up into the mouth with a knife here it is possible to then push back and down, possibly severing several arteries, and piercing or severing the windpipe. This will lead to rapid incapacitation.

Point B in Figure 4 is a target just forward of the dogs spinal column in the neck, preferably a thrust into the side of the neck, and pulling the blade back towards the front of the throat, resulting in a complete severing of the trachea, and several arteries. More muscular dogs (such as the pitbull, rottweiler, and shepards) will be more protected in this area, making this is very difficult target to attack effectively. If you are facing a dog that is extremely muscular in this area (see Figure 2 for a depiction of how canine muscles wrap the chest and neck), it is a better tactic to thrust into this area as deeply, rapidly, and as many times as you can, potentially severing one or more arteries.

Point C in Figure 4 is targeting a major artery cluster located to either side of the canine spine just about even with the leading edge of the rear leg. This is a thrusting target, once the knife is plunged into this area, it should be worked back and forth and side to side as rapidly and as violently as possible. Puncturing any of these arteries (or better, severing them) will result in rapid incapacitation of the animal.

Point D in Figure 4 is targeting the musculature and ligaments of the forelegs. This is a target of opportunity, and if successfully used can lead to immobilization of the dog.

Point E in Figure 4 is targeting the diaphragm and intestinal cavity of the dog. A thrust into this area from underneath starting just below the rib cage and pushing or pulling back towards the rear legs will likely disembowel the canine, while also possibly severing several arteries and major veins, or damaging several vital organs.

Point F in Figure 4 is targeting the large muscle groups and tendons on the front of the hind legs. This is a target of opportunity, successfully delivered powerful slashes to these areas can immobilize the dog, as well as potentially severing major veins.

Point G in Figure 4 is targeting the tendons and large muscle groups on the rear of the hind legs. This is a target of opportunity. Successfully delivered powerful slashes or thrusts pulled out to the rear can immobilize the dog, as well as potentially severing major veins.

You can see in Figure 5 that (as is the case with humans) dogs have several arteries that run under the jaw and around the skull. These arteries are relatively close to the surface of the tissue, and severing any of them will result in rapid blood loss. The chest area of most dogs is very heavily muscled (as shown in Figure 2 above), and can be rather difficult to penetrate effectively. If you have a large heavy fixed blade knife, the area where the arteries converge in the chest may be a viable target, but should probably be avoided with a folding knife.

These are not the only targets available, but are the targets that are most likely to result in rapid incapacitation.

Fighting a dog with your bare hands

This is a situation that almost guarantees that you will get bit. I’ve had to fight two dogs with my bare hands, and have been bitten both times. It’s almost unavoidable.

If it is going to happen, why not try to minimize the damage? In virtually every case, an attacking dog will bite the first thing that comes near its mouth.

In some cases this will be your groin (very bad), or your abdomen (not good either), but usually this is not a dog’s first choice for attack.

Dogs tend to attack by leaping into your chest with their front paws in an attempt to push you down, so frequently the first thing near their mouth is one of your hands or arms (there are plenty of videos available on the internet where you can see this behavior. Police dogs are trained specifically to attack like this, in large part because this is a natural attack for a dog against a taller opponent).

If you can get a piece of clothing in the dogs mouth rather than a piece of your body, great! Do it! If you have a few moments warning that the dog is going to attack you, wrap whatever you have around your ‘weak’ forearm (jacket, sweater, tee shirt, anything helps), and let the dog bite that rather than an unprotected limb.

If you have the gumption to follow through with it jam your hand in its mouth and either grab its tongue with a death grip, or try as hard as you can to shove your fist down its throat.

In 2005 a 73 year old man in Nairobi killed an attacking Leopard by pulling it’s tongue out. Dogs will not bite down if you have hold of their tongue for fear of severing their own tongue. If you are going to try this I highly recommend that you use the other hand to control the dog’s head so that it cannot shake you off.

Remember that except in very rare cases, you are larger than the dog (if you’re fighting an aggressive dog that is bigger than you are, you’d better give it everything you’ve got because you’re in serious trouble). Use your size to your advantage. If you can manage to mount the dog and stay on top of it, it is quite likely that you can hold the dog down until help can be called, or you can figure out how to incapacitate the dog.

Unless you are the fastest human on the planet, you are not going to be able to outrun the dog, so don’t even try. You do not want an aggressive dog falling on you from behind. The best thing you can do it is to face the dog squarely, do not look it directly in the eye (if you are wearing sunglasses take them off, as dogs see them as big, staring, unblinking eyes that are looking right at them), which is a sign that you are challenging the dog.

Yell at the dog, wave your arms, but do not back away. If you retreat, or show fear the dog will attack you. If you stand your ground, and do not directly challenge the dog by advancing on it, or retreating it may decide that it does not want to attack you.

If you are wearing a belt you can use as a weapon, do so! Belts have several combat uses; you can whip the dog with the buckle end, use it as an improvised garrote or muzzle, and in the case of thick leather belts you can jam it into the dog’s mouth sideways (you’ll need to jam it all the way back to the mandibular joint for this to be more than a very temporary restraint) which can effectively prevent the dog from biting you.

You can use a shirt or jacket as an improvised muzzle, if you can get it over the dog’s head. Anything that you can use to give yourself an edge will help. If you have nothing and it’s mano a canis, you must incapacitate the dog as rapidly as possible.

Dogs noses are extremely sensitive, and easy to damage because they are very soft tissue. Any blow to a dog’s nose is going to be very painful and may cause the dog to pull away from you. Use this to your advantage.

If the dog jumps at you and you can manage to get your hands on its forelegs, jerk them straight out to the sides as hard as you can. Dog’s forelegs do not naturally bend this way and you can easily break the legs or separate joints effectively immobilizing the dog.

If you can manage to get your hand on top of its muzzle and not get bit, you can clamp the dog’s mouth shut and pin it to it’s chest which is also an effective way to prevent bites.

I’ll reiterate, you are bigger than the dog; pick the dog up and slam it into the ground (or wall or a car), or throw it over a fence (I’ve actually done this).

Keep in mind that dogs generally have much looser skin than humans. You can use this in the same way you would use lose clothing on a human attacker, to direct their motion, or as a handhold for applying leverage.

Dogs are susceptible to joint locks and chokes just as humans are (though in the case of a joint lock, you’ll probably want to go ahead and break the joint so you don’t get bit too much while trying to hold the joint lock). A rear naked choke works just as well on a pitbull as it does on a human, with the benefit that the dog cannot use its hands to try to break the choke (I choked out a pitbull once, it took a lot longer than it does for a human but it works).

Aggression is your friend. If you manage to back the dog off, or it turns to run, chase it while screaming like a madman. You want to drive the fact that you are dangerous and will hurt the dog into its primitive brain. Dogs that turn to run may only travel a short distance to regroup before bringing the fight right back to you. Do not assume that the dog is in full retreat.

If you manage to drive the dog off, leave the area and seek shelter immediately. You cannot be sure that it will not return.

Group tactics

In the video from London that is linked at the beginning of this post, you’ll notice that the cops pretty much abandoned the one being set upon by the dog. They could easily have overpowered the animal and minimized the extent of his injuries, had they simply coordinated their efforts (rather than wait for the guys with the guns to show up).

If a dog is attacking someone else; run up behind it, grab its rear legs lifting them off the ground, and pull them apart like they were a wishbone. This destroys the stability of the dog’s attack platform (if you’re strong enough it can also dislocate the hip joints or break the legs, immobilizing the dog), and makes it nearly impossible for the dog to bite the person it was attacking. Be aware though that if the dog is smart (or lucky) it may roll over onto it’s side and try to bite you.

Similarly, if you get the dog’s rear legs up in the air and notice that it is a male dog, kick those testicles like you are trying to set a record for the longest field goal in history. I saw this done to a pitbull that had locked its jaws on another dog, and the kick took the dog right out of the fight.

If there are several of you, pile on the dog and hold it down until you can immobilize it or help can be summoned.


68 Responses to Combative Anatomy: How to fight a dog

  1. Colby says:

    I just jumped on it got it on its back and punched its tib cage repeatidly

  2. EdStull says:

    I was sixteen when a young dobie leading a pack ran across the street and leaped on me, I instinctively raised my hands to straight arm him. Miraculously, the leash ring on his slip collar got close to my middle finger as I wrestled him, and I closed both hands over it and slung the dog around a few whirled, the ring hurting too much to hold onto. I stood my ground, the startled dog decided not to jump again. Total freak encounter that turned out well. The whole pack took off. I can still see those snarling canines! Whew!
    I too love dogs, and own them. But this is a good article filled with valuable information. Thanks!

  3. James S. says:

    Stones are good too !!! When I was kid I was set upon a few times by ‘ running ‘ dogs – that’s what my Dad used to call them, domestic pets out for no good. I dropped my bike, the dogs, 2 of them – maybe 40 ft away, were advancing – I let fly with egg size worn round stones : hit them both in the side, and in the face. It stopped them and they fled. I jumped on my bike and booked it too. I also heard laughter works, and it did – when a Sheppard was chasing me – I peddled my ass off, but at the same time forced the loudest laughter out I could – manic crazy laughter. The dog slowed and watched me rip off – great !!! Other times I’ve just ‘ freaked out ‘ yelling with all the flaming rage I could and it scared the dogs enough to back them off. Really.

    Great article. Thanks for sharing.

  4. azita says:

    This is the first article I’ve found that describes the dog’s anatomy for self defense purposes. Recently my Tibetan Terrier was attacked by a loose pit bull. Instinctively I attacked the pit bull and after several bites to my hands and arms, managed to get the pit bull to release my dog. To prevent the PB from running after my dog, I did a chokehold on his neck from behind and knocked him down with all my strength. I placed one knee on his neck and another on his lower abdomen area while pressing my hands into the side of his face. The balls of my feet were firmly anchored to the ground to prevent him from toppling me over. Not the safest method…

    Great tips–wish I knew them before the PB attack. Thanks for sharing.

    • Pits have noreason to live says:

      Continue choking until the beast is dead.

      • Don't be so harsh says:

        You seem pretty anti-pit bull. They get a bad rap. They’re not even that high on credible lists of dog breeds by aggression. It has entirely to do with training(or lack thereof). I’ve known incredibly friendly pit bulls, one of whom was pretty high-strung until she was properly trained. It’s a dog thing, not a pit bull thing.

      • Sandman says:

        I just recently had my 17 year old Pitt put down, she was a great dog. None of that changes the data that supports them as being a rather dangerous breed. The only agenda I’m pushing is realism.

  5. Edwin says:

    I was working one day and a very large dog chomped around my hand which luckily had a glove on it… I shoved my fist straight down the dogs throat…he didn’t care to much for that and did every thing he could to get away…I kept shoving…He never came after me again… after that when he would see me he would run for the house…this wasn’t my first encounter with him but it was the last…I have had other encounters and find most dogs DO NOT LIKE TO BE ATTACKED WHEN THEY CHARGE YOU… TOTALLY FREAKS THEM OUT…

    • Jack says:

      I’ve hear that if a dog bites your forearm, give it what it wants. Shove your arm all the way to the back of his jaw, forcing his mouth open. Grab his lower jaw, pull down, and it won’t bite you ever again. It won’t bite ever again.

  6. Jeff says:

    Growing up around big dogs, a U.S. Army K9 trainer taught me the kill spot on a dog’s skull. If you draw an imaginary line from right eye to left ear and left eye to right ear, the soft spot is about 1″ behind where the lines cross. Meanwhile, a young martial artist I knew killed an attacking Doberman (probably equal in size!) with a half-fist (thin middle knuckle strike) to the throat. Dropping into a deep stance may cause a charging dog to break off to circle, as it will recognize the defensive posture (common to all animals), and it changes your upright human posture to something unfamiliar. I once stopped a charging bull mastiff with that (and a really loud yell), causing it to turn tail and run. I’ve also caught a leaping dog in the chest with a solid knee strike; that ended that incident.

    No fun breaking up dog fights; I’ve got scars from those. Grabbing the collar is risky; best advice I’ve heard is to separate them by grabbing the hind legs to separate them. That way, if they try to turn on you, you can swing them away.

    • Paul says:

      that is why I searched this topic in the first place, wondering if a throat-punch is as effective on a dog as on a human, seems like it should be, thank you!

  7. Jason Chambers says:

    Very good article on combating dogs. I work for my local animal control agency and would like to contact the author. I would like to use this on a presentation to my department.

  8. dave g says:

    based on your idea of a belt how about taking belt off, form a slip knot loop, put a shoe on right hand , put slip knot in left hand wide open, put shoe “through ” the loop in the belt / slip knot. Dog bites 1st item, the shoe. As dog bites the shoe move the loop forward from the arm holding the shoe over dogs head. Pull on slip knot to choke the dog .

    • Sandman says:

      In my experience things that require manual dexterity kinda fall apart once the adrenaline dump happens. You’ve still got some fine motor skill control as long as you’re not in a full on panic (despite what some people preach), but something as complex as what you describe A) will take time that you may not have, and B) is dicey at best.

      Some people might be able to pull it off, but I wouldn’t try it.

  9. Sensei Daddy says:

    Any thoughts on using mace or tasers?

    There was a guy in my neighborhood that took a squirt bottle of ammonia with him on his walks. That seemed to really give the dog something to think about. The burning of the eyes and the sensitivity of the nose to the smell sent him away with a whimper.

    Of course, you need to have it on you and be able to get it out in time, but those seem to be options for people right?

    Not sure if the dog stayed away after that or was thinking about how to get even though. 🙂

    • KaD says:

      These or bear spray work on most dogs but not likely on pit bulls and fighting breeds which were bred to ignore pain while attacking.

      • Education saves lives says:

        not true. they are bred to finish they aren’t bred differently in pain tolerance, the same way fighters in a ring will deal with pain differently depending on their position. I work with a no kill advocate organization and these are the type of rumors we are trying to dispell. pits are amazing yes but I’m also not an ignorant fan, I’m fully aware of what people do with them.


      • Pits have noreason to live says:

        I’ve sprayed pits with police-issue OC and it did nothing. Use something that works whether the dog cooperates or not: a blade, an impact weapon or a gun.

      • The stick up the arse does work, a woman used that to get a locked on pitbull off of my puppy once years ago. The pit bull immediately released.

  10. stevefm fm says:

    I’ve seen a few videos where the attacking dog is put off by the human manoeuvring. Attacking dogs I think like to see humans as relatively still prey, if you can side-step to avoid the initial charge and jump then turn on them a few times and throw a few kicks they think you are a more formidable opponent and think again. I’m thinking particularly of this video although the dog appears to back off when a gun is pointed at it.

  11. KaD says:

    Another thing you might be able to do if the dog has a collar on is use a knife handle or small flashlight like the point on a tourniquet and choke the dog out. Especially with a pit bull, don’t dance with the dog or it will pull you to pieces. Try to get the dog off its feet and sit on it or hold it down which using your weight to break its ribs. Get a concealed carry permit if you can, this problem is only going to get worse. And have your situational awareness about you. If you see a dog from a distance you may be able to climb a tree or get on a car and avoid a brutal attack.

    • Lucky says:

      This is a tactic which works once the dog is already latched onto something. If his jaws are occupied, he/she may not bite as your hand approaches the collar. You do not need a flashlight or other object, but it can be helpful with very large dogs or if the collar is metal. Having an object to slide in there can also make it more difficult to twist and cause you to lose your opportunity. It can also place your hand i reach of the teeth. If your hand is under the collar and you keep your arm behind it’s head while straddling the dog, the dog can’t bite it. I would straddle the dog then slide four fingers and palm under the collar (either towards the head or shoulders) to the crook of the thumb, raise the collar as high on the neck as possible (easier to do in one motion if sliding towards the head) to immobilize the head, and twist. The downside to raising the collar to the base of the head, is that the trachea is better protected , however, it gives more control over the gnashing parts which may present themselves if the dog releases whoever it had in it’s mouth.

      A lot of pitbull owners put their dogs in harnesses “because they pull”. I am not sure if that’s just a trend here in Souther California or if it is common everywhere. Rarely do I see any other medium-large breed in a harness. This trend bothers me. If you have a powerful breed of dog that you cannot control with a collar, putting it in a harness is a terrible idea. The pits I am seeing are not in no-pull harnesses, they are in regular harnesses and pulling their owners down the sidewalk. A dog who pulls on lead, is not likely to listen to it’s owner. Even if they are not aggressive, these dogs are at a greater risk of getting into fights with other dogs because they are amped up. They are also likely to get into danger (running way, getting into traffic…) should they manage to pull away.

      Please train your dogs to focus on you during a walk. It ma save his life one day. SolidK9 has great videos you can watch for free as do a lot of other good dog trainers.

  12. kerfirou says:

    Great tips!

    Dogs can be human best friends, but they can be someone worst nightmare too.

    Its good to know how to handle them if such accident happen.

  13. Alex Valahul says:

    @” A 92 year old man in Africa killed an attacking Jaguar ” : there are no Jaguars in Africa

  14. Robert says:

    Someone answered a question on a similar topic on Quora and I think the information is complimentary:

  15. Bobbie Irish says:

    If you have a knife and are able to keep the dog off, or keep its grip on something, use the knife to take out the eyeballs. Blind dogs will usually stop, unless it’s a really game pit bull. But even then, if you’ve blinded the dog, you will have an advantage.

    • Pits have noreason to live says:

      Even if you have no blade, this is good advice. Pull its eyes out with your bare fingers. It’s your life at stake, don’t give up.

  16. marnasa says:

    Great advice. When I was a kid I had neighbors that would set their dogs out on me while I was waiting for the bus. They’d laugh while their dogs bit me. The cops did nothing. One day when I got bit, I kicked it in the chest as hard as I could. It stumbled and fell backward trying to turn around. Then I stomped the dog’s ribs until it died in front of the owner. I was a 7 year old little girl. I’ve carried a knife everywhere since that day. Its good to remember that, although you’re fighting a vicious animal, you too are an animal capable of fierce strength and intelligence. Channel your inner ape and you’ll win.

  17. I’m surprised you didn’t mention the eyes as an obvious target with a knife, but really with any weapon that you have, including your thumbs. It doesn’t take much force to stab a dog in the eyes. Not only will it pretty much stop the fight as the dog will almost certainly attempt to flee after just the first eye being stabbed out, but if it does try to continue fighting without eyes it will be much easier to keep landing additional thrusts since he dog is now blind and can’t see them coming.

    • Sandman says:

      Eyes are a very small target, which nearly all animals protect while attacking.

      Additionally, due to the shape of the ocular cavity, there is a strong chance of a blade (especially a small blade as found on most pocket knives) becoming stuck and resulting in the loss of the weapon.

      Of course the eyes should be a target of opportunity, and I was remiss in failing to mention that. If you can land an attack on an eye it would likely be wise to do so, unless it exposes you to a bite or the loss of your weapon.

  18. Jeff Stanley says:

    I just wanted to thank the person who took the time and made this useful webpage. I am a mailman and am constantly being harassed by dogs. I am glad to have some knowledge now of how to incapacitate a dog if the situation occurs. I too would also like to state that I am a dog and animal lover and would never intentionally hurt a dog or animal. Thanks you for making this page.


    The mail man

  19. Alexander says:

    When i m trekking, i always carry a spare bottle of water. It top should have a nipple valve tgat squirts when squashed. Aim for their mouth when open or ears. They just hate water and back off. This method is also used on charging lions in the wild. Could any one give advice on how to avoid charging bulls and calfing cows? Its these guys that i just keep having to face each day!

  20. Niles says:

    After thinking about this for a while now I’m convinced the knee kick to the face/upper chest is the best answer to a charging, leaping dog. This is because it delivers the most impact force compared to the punch/normal kick, while also being very fast (faster move more likely to hit a fast target like a dog) keeping your arms free to guard your chest/head (punches aren’t always strong enough to push the dog back + leave you more exposed if miss). It surprises me so few mention this, knees are one of our most deadly weapons, that is why they are not allowed in most fighting sports. It’s like a rock under our skin. It’s more effective vs dogs than it is vs humans because humans often are too far away so that the knee point blank technique can’t get to them whereas kicks and punches can, not to mention as you said the pain tolerance is lower in people than animals so force is less of a factor. (You want an instant blow KO/back off with a dog and the knee is most likely to do that). So no disrespect but I don’t think you know very much what you’re talking about if you don’t even mention the knee.
    Still I’d like to know your opinion about this move?

    • chill says:

      I’m highly doubtful that kneeing a dog is a good idea. Much like in real fights where it is somewhat rare to just straight up knock someone out with one hit, I think it would not knock a dog out very often to try kneeing him. I’d probably rather keep him away from biting my stomach or neck.

  21. tuedang88 says:

    My neighbor tried to harm me with his dog each time I close my gate every evening. For security and safety reasons at night, closing door at 10 pm is necessary. However, he unleashed the dog to take revenge on me stopping him from holding a midnight party. Although he knew that was the time for everyone to sleep, every time I try to close the door he releases the dog. When telling him, I was answered that the dog was just playing and would not bite me as I imagined. I felt angry, and said to him the next time I will beat the dog if it tries to attack me. I love dogs, fear dog attacks but can’t tolerate any more. Thanks for your guides.

  22. Monique says:

    What about mace or tazers?

    • Sandman says:

      Tasers have a fairly large margin of error with a fast moving animal covered in fur. Chemical deterrents can be effective.

      Generally I recommend carrying tools that will work consistently in the largest cross section of threats you are likely to encounter. Things that work on a dog may not work on a man (and vice versa). Things that work on a man probably won’t work on a bear. Risk management is a tedious balancing act.

  23. Alex says:

    Outstanding presentation. The only time i got attacked, i managed to side kick the dog while he was in the air, making the dog spin and tumble as it landed. I immediately rushed it before it had a chance to regain it’s footing and mounted it, with one hand i grabbed the skin on his neck and with the other i made a fist and with all my weight i pushed down on it’s air way until it was dead.
    I was lucky it didn’t bite me, but my biggest advice is to expect to get bit, loose the fear of that and you will focus on what you have to do so the dog doesn’t kill/harm you or anyone else. Be fast, aggressive and lethal.

  24. Dislike Dogs says:

    I dislike dogs, I dislike their smell, and I like your article. There is a good reason why the Old Testament in the Bible says that dogs are unclean creatures, and why they are always depicted as guarding hell, or bad places and such….

    It is due to the Roman Catholic Church, aka the Great Beast that started this whole dog keeping culture worldwide. I do not need a dog to “validate” me nor do I place a dog, a mere animal, above a human being. This is not acceptable to God IMHO.

    Everyone must know how to kill canines in SELF DEFENSE, if they are attacked. With millions and millions of these unclean animals out there today as it is, there is no choice.

  25. James Hicks says:

    This site had some great ideas for my defense. Many thanks ALL contributors. I am expert fighter but limited dog fighter. I will address Bare Hand method with my ideas.
    I’m a runner and spend a lot of time in Asia. (Thailand) Over here, the dogs are simi-domesticated, living and protective of their home. They free wonder the streets and will normally come out barking/chasing and ready to bite most any strangers passing the streets. (Usually just nipping on back of legs) These dogs come in trotting and not hard charging. I have never seen them jump attack. I am finding that turning and facing the charging dog is absolutely necessary first. They will bite you from rear if you don’t. I madman bark/yell/roar big time, with my arms up and some lunging to them while they circle toward. This avoids the fight most of time and they back down /stop barking allowing you to move away. Do not turn on them for long as they may reassert. (Especially if more than one dog) I do break some eye contact a few seconds and re-establish on exiting 10-30 ft. (right or wrong?) Yesterday I met one that kept pressing so I start punching and kicking first. (Most of which the faster dog will avoid, but throw anyways) A right backhand fist to k-9 noise ended his desire to fight. However caught a couple snaggle tooth on my attacking hand.

    For future If I had a jumping dog I am now thinking about combining a couple of bare hand tactics where I would try and wrap left for arm with shirt, if possible (as front cover hand, centerline chest to head/offering hand) and counter strike with left long knee to dog ribs and try to grab a front leg off my chest with my right hand and break his leg/pull wide. I think this maybe safer, for me at least, than trying to grab both front legs. (In case you miss) You still are centerline protecting your neck and head by sacrificing your left arm to the bite(s). The right hand leg grab seems more likely to be caught while the dog would be quick to avoid most right punches.

    FYI Asia (Thailand) walking rural area at night the dogs turn to roaming packs. The sound of one dog barking excites the others and you had better leave within a minute or sooner!
    So if you are fighting one you will likely get attacked from other pack dog(s) at same time.
    FYI I really like Thailand but at night, I carry a stick and prefer to take transportation..

  26. Love dogs , not pitbulls says:

    You mentioned edged weapons. I love dogs and hope never to cause harm to the animal , but some breeds I just don’t trust and I don’t like. What about the machete? How effective is this weapon against let say a pitbull or stafforshire terrier? A machete with an extremely sharp convex edge ? Would it stop a pitbull when struck with at the front legs? Or its neck? I know this is quite disturbing and I would not like to do this , but only when to save my own life ,that of a child or other dog. Would it be likely the dog would back of after a good strike to the head or its neck? A machete can cause immense trauma on humans , I know dog muscles is more dense and harder to cut but definitely not impossible with a good well sharpened machete. Or is it? Please tell me , I have a machete sharpened and well looked after just in case such attack would happen. Have not much experience with it yet, because I life in Europe ,unfortunately we cant have guns to protect ourselves. I need to know if its capable of stopping the dog and end an attack quick enough before myself or someone else dies because of a pit bull attack. Pit bull are potentially lethal and I think these dogs should be banned completely where humans and children live. Some people keep these dogs with the sole purpose to intimidate and put fear in other people. Please mail me back as soon as possible.

  27. Jonise says:

    Thank you so much. My dog and I were just recently attacked by a pit bull and he Killed my dog after a long fight. I tried everything and couldn’t put this dog down. I was left with a broken heart. Now I feel I’m more prepared.

  28. Jamal Stevens says:

    Fuck yeah this stray neighborhood pit bull has been chasing me and my girl in to the house for the last three weeks and I finally stood my ground and whooped that dogs ass right infront of my girl!!!! It was like Craig fighting Dee Bo on Friday LOL

  29. I love your article.. I love dogs and recently adopted one, but we don’t know each other yet and he is showing aggressive traits, only when his toys or hump pillow is taken away or moved) I took away his pull toys and left the blanket is the crate. (his space) but he has already nipped my hand, just a bruise. So I don’t want to take any chances. His shaded play room is the garage and I have a machete on hand, as well as a Fairbairn-Sykes SAS stilleto on me… I wish I didn’t need them. Hopefully with a month of loving he will be a cuddly bear. Did I mention I am a 5’5 110 lbs female? He is just really big, Huge Rott (Way bigger than average) and had never been loved on before. The Fairbairn was designed to kill through field armor and I don’t think it is like the ‘knife’ you meant in your article. (the Blade is 9 and a half inches, solid steel with a ribbed handle, through-blade.
    But I thought I would share my grandma’s story. She was sewing when she heard screams; neighbor’s kid was being attacked by a bully breed. She ran out with steel sewing shears that were razor sharp and sliced the attacking dog’s neck. She felt really bad afterwards but she didn’t have a choice. STeel Shears are deadlier than knives because of the grip and slicing action

  30. Tyler Mathew says:

    Thank you for this post, I was recently confronted with a pitbull and only had my switchblade for protection. I was able to walk slowly inside facing the dog before calling the cops and returning outside with my gun. By that time he was gone. I had no idea where a decisive blow with a knife could go and now I do. Thank you.

  31. Sean M says:

    This really makes a lot of sense to me, specifically the part about the leg joints above the foot and below where it connect to the body. Only time I have ever been attacked by a dog and I, entirely on instinct or maybe luck, grabbed the front-left leg as it jumped at me from the top of some stairs. I pulled the leg outwards and used my other hand to push the dogs head to the side, away from me and in the opposite direction to the leg pull.

    This entirely immobilized the dog without harming it. I did get a very small bite cut on my inner palm when he first jumped at me, but that was it.

    The dog very quickly learned that I was in charge. He very much loves me now and treats me with respect, as I him. I’m still a little weary around it, but I still believe I could take him if he tried it again.

  32. Sharon says:

    My name is Sharon. I have had my dog for about 7 years. She is part German Shepard and a little chow. Her mom was a very big white Shepard mixed. She is protective of the yard. Very smart & a loving dog.
    I have never had a problem with collars until recently. In the past 3 to 4 weeks. I have found 3 of her collars what look like they were cut. I have photos of 2 of the collars I can’t find the other one. I found it very strange after all these years for her to have her collars destroyed we also have a border collie about 8 months. I can’t see her chewing the collars off when there’s straight edges. When you talked about dog fighting this concerns me. In the area we live in there have been arrests for this.
    Can I please send photos to you. Tell me what you think is this is a knife cut on her collars or not?
    Thank you for your time.

  33. Lauren says:

    I am a single mother of 4 unless you count the neighbors kids that are always here. I have always worried that a dog would try to attack one of my kids and I would be helpless to stop it. Thank you for the lessons. Our neighborhood is full of dogs that are known to attack. I hope I never have to use this information. But at least I know what to do if the situation calls for it.

  34. Chase says:

    Good post. Ive also been in two dog fights . Both hand to hand. If they are wearing a collar and you are able to get to it behind their head you can twist it instead of just yanking it . it cuts of air and eventually they passout . Also if they are attacking someone else. Grabbing their cheeks under their ears and pulling back, or pushing back depending on your position, makes them have a gag reflex and they choke.generally they let go . Granted your still holding a dog that want to hurt you but it may save your moms poodle …

  35. Assumed Name says:

    Hi there, thank you very much for posting this information. I’m a 25 year old student who was recently attacked by a rottweiler. While allowing this dog who I was told “[was] a little jumpy but had never attacked anyone” to smell me, I was bitten several times on my hand and stood my ground in front of my idiotic friend who did NOTHING to restrain his dog. During the time I was at my friend’s house, this dog had attacked me several times and I had to threaten my friend with violence and police in order for him to put it in its damned cage. I told that son of a bitch that if his dog came at me again, I was going to kill it immediately and that if he tried to stop me, I would consider him a threat to my life and dispatch him before the dog could get a chance at me. He asked me if I “really would call the police.” What a fucking joke. I’m a trained martial artist with years of experience in several disciplines— the only hesitation I had in kicking his ass was dealing with the damn dog afterwards, which was a new experience for me. Long story short, I went to the ER (mainly just to report this dog), and thankfully only received minor injuries. However, I did some detective work and asked around after the incident about this dog… Turns out, that son of a bitch owner lied to me: his psycho dog had attacked several people before. I hope he doesn’t plan to hangout with me again. If he does, he’ll leave in an ambulance with some good sense knocked into him.

    Doesn’t help that my temper makes me want to kill that damn dog with my bare hands… I grew up with a beautiful, kind, and smart Shepard-retriever mix. My ex-military dad was bitten by a rabid dog in front of me when I was young and, in an effort to prevent any trauma, he adopted a puppy for my brother and I shortly following the incident. I loved that dog more than anything and would do anything to protect it— the same way my dad would do anything to protect me (.

    Believe me, I’m not a violent person by default; I’m merely an academic who wants to live his life without this ridiculous fear.

  36. Chris says:

    Concealed firearms work on ALL predators both 2 and 4 legged.

  37. Brain Raisins says:

    steel toe boots work great

  38. Paul Shearer says:

    I love dogs too. But was once cornered by a dog then bitten when trying to escape. This article gives the best plan for winning this fight I have ever seen. Thank you for your expertise.

  39. P. Board says:

    When I think of all the crap I learned in primary school. None of it was as amazing as above article. I got attacked by dogs until I taught myself a simple trick. Face the dog. Turn your body side on. Extend your less dominant hand towards dog. Raise your dominant hand and pretend to throw the stone the dog thinks is in your hand. Move your hand in 12 inch moves back and forth in quick jerky moves. Yell at dog “Get back!” Slowly retreat to the farmers gate or a car. With multiple dogs you pretend to throw at the dog that tries to take the lead. I have never had a serious injury. Have never hurt a dog. When riding a bike, keep a (chrome) bicycle pump on the bike. Extend pump and clock it on head. Lift both knees, if multiple dogs attack both sides of your bicycle.

  40. Trilia says:

    This is the very first actually useful article I have found. There are tons of people claiming that it is best to just lay there, cover your vital parts and pretty much just LET THE DOG BITE YOU. I couldn’t understand how is that possibly going to help me. Thank you for writing something that can actually save me one day. Let me also explain that I started seeking self defence from dogs because even though I was raised with house pets and my parents always had a dog, now they got a new one that is in my opinion exhibiting some unforeseenable behaviour, illogical and potentially aggressive. Scares me enough to seek an article like this, even though I love dogs and never expected to feel threatened by a house pet.

  41. NancyP says:

    Useful article. I haven’t run into feral dogs out in state parks and national forests, but it may happen. I am an amateur photographer, not a martial artist, but I do carry a tripod or monopod with a 2 pound, 3″ x 3″ x 4″ solid aluminum head (the attachment site for a camera), which at the end of a 20″ to 25″ (folded length) tripod leg held at the foot end, does approximate a mace. I can’t be bothered with bear spray anyway, as the (uncommon) local bears are black bears (happy to avoid humans) and are not yet “corrupted” by over-familiarity with humans.

  42. Gunnar says:

    Great article. I got attacked by a big dog 3 weeks ago. It was on a farm and i was lucky to have a crowbar. I beat i one time with all my force in the neck with the crowbar. I fainted and made funny noise while shaking on the ground. The ovner put it down with a rifle strait aften the happening. Sorry for poor english skulle.

  43. The Greatest in the Galaxy says:

    Besides the pit bull locking its jaw this was actually very good. It’s a myth that they can lock their jaw, it’s just they are SO determined to do their job they dont let go. Plus their job was to fight and kill bulls (the bulls were tied down and already hurt) and if they let go they would get impaled or trampled. Other than that tho, perfectly accurate info

  44. Michelle says:

    Thank you for this unflinching, realistic information. I like dogs just fine and have never been attacked, but every once in a while I have nightmare-daydreams of a dog attacking one of my children, and me fighting it off. (I would absolutely kill it if I had to, in theory…) It feels reassuring knowing some tricks that I can keep in the back of my mind to dispel the anxiety at the least; and to utilize if it ever becomes necessary.

  45. homebro says:

    Thank you, this is great!

  46. Bill Fyte says:

    My wife and I and our Shar Pei were just recently attacked unprovoked by a pitbull that got out of a house front door while we were walking our dog. The pit beelined at our dog 100 mph and tore into her and my wife on the ground. I used a Kershaw Blur folding knife I had clipped in my pocket and stabbed the already engaged pitbull into the eye all the way down to the hilt. That stopped the attack and it incapacitated the beast. My poor dog was tore up but I understand the pit died. One less.

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